Worried neighbours have spoken of their fear after a 25-ft sinkhole opened up near a quiet street in Ripon.
Three houses in Magdalen’s Close were evacuated last night after cracks in the ground caused one nearby home to start crumbling.
Nobody was hurt, a spokesman for the fire service said, but one dog had to be rescued.
Experts from the British Geological Survey (BGS) are now on site investigating and neighbours are anxiously waiting to hear what has happened - and what it will mean for them.
“It’s terrifying that it can just appear so suddenly,” said one neighbour. “It’s just lucky that nobody was hurt.”
Firefighters were first called to the scene at 5.40pm on Monday night, evacuating neighbours as a “precaution” and cordoning off the area amid fears the house was in danger of collapse.
Neighbour Helen Sturt, who was at home cooking dinner at the time, said the first they knew of what happened was when they saw the fire engines.
“Nobody told us anything for a good half hour,” she said. “They evacuated three houses, then turned the gas off.
“We had to leave - I couldn’t have the kids here in the cold. We didn’t know if it was safe. We even left the roast dinner.
“Apparently the family unlocked the back door and the wall just collapsed. They went back for the dog.”
Ward councillor Stuart Martin was on site this morning to talk to neighbours.
“The family are very traumatised,” he said. “It was very distressing for them to be in the house when it happened. The dog was there too, he’s now in kennels.
“The residents are just trying to establish where they will sleep tonight.
“My thoughts are with them, and how we can support them. That’s what’s paramount. They just want to get some order back in their life.”
The cause of the sinkhole is reportedly down to a gypsum fault.
The chairman of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), Coun Bernard Bateman, was also on site this morning to speak to residents.
“All we can do is offer any help and assistance we can give,” he said.
“We know we have a problem with Gyspum in Ripon. A hundred years ago, when this house was probably built, it wasn’t such an issue.
“All we can ask now is that we investigate it properly.”
It’s not the first time questions have been raised about ground safety in the city.
Just last Wednesday, a proposal to build an extra 75 homes on Ripon’s nearby abandoned auction mart site was rejected amid safety concerns.
The Mayor of Ripon, Coun Mick Stanley, urging councillors to dismiss the plans because of the risk of gypsum subsidence, said: “Why has there been no development on the site for the past 300 years? Could it be that our ancestors knew it was unstable?”
Coun Bateman said today further investigations would be needed in light of this application.
“They will have to look again at what they are suggesting there,” he said. “But something will have to be done with the site.
“I feel for those that live nearby. What can we do? It’s very difficult to give any reassurances until all the investigations are dealt with.”
Coun Martin, who is also vice chairman of Harrogate Borough Council’s (HBC) planning committee, was one of those who opposed the housing plans until safety maps were drawn up.
“Residents aren’t against development - they just want it to be in a safe manner,” he said.
“What’s next for the auction mart? I don’t know. We need to know what’s caused this.”